Brutalist St. Agnes Church in Berlin Becomes Art Gallery
German architect Werner Düttmann (1921-1983), a prominent postwar modernist, designed the Brutalist St. Agnes Church in 1967 as the centerpiece of a social housing community of the Kreuzberg area of Berlin, which had been leveled in World War II. After years of neglect and threats of demolition, the church has made a comeback, reopening this May as König Galerie following a three-year restoration.
Werner Düttmann served as the West Berlin senate building director in the 1960s. He assigned the St. Agnes project to his own firm, which had significant experience with public works projects. Designed with the strength and functionality characteristic of the Brutalist movement, St. Agnes is surrounded by eight-story public housing buildings and was designed as a hefty anchor to the Kreuzberg neighborhood, just south of Berlin’s Mitte district.
Art dealer Johann König, 33, son of publisher and art bookstore owner Walther König, acquired a 99-year-lease to the space in 2011, and enlisted architecture firms Brandlhuber+ Emde, Schneider / Riegler Riewe, as well as Berlin’s historic monument authority, Landesdenkmalamt Berlin, to turn the Brutalist church into a contemporary arts space. The architects also restored a Düttmann-designed community center attached to the church, which now houses a nonprofit center for contemporary art, living quarters for König’s family, the offices of the magazine 032c, a studio art space for NYU Berlin and offices for the architecture firm ROBERTNEUN.
König’s base has been his gallery at Dessauer Strasse between the Neue Nationalgalerie and the gallery district in Kochstrasse. Gregory Hose, gallery director, says that location will continue for both side projects and as a support facility for the new St. Agnes location.